Not surprisingly, I’ve seen this movie many times, but haven’t watched it in several years. I re-watched it with Chooch and our nineteen year old son, codename Naughty Bear, who had not seen the movie before.
This is a great movie, and I’m surprised it’s so low in the ranking. I am THRILLED that it’s rated higher than French Connection, because it is easily more compelling and definitely a better film. I appreciate what French Connection was trying to do, and likely was the first to accomplish it in its time, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Goodfellas. (I almost typed “in my opinion”, but I don’t have to do that here, do I? It’s ALL my opinion, after all.)
One new bit of enjoyment that I found was in spotting actors that were unknown to me previously, that I had forgotten were in it or didn’t recognize in previous viewings. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of folks from The Sopranos and I loved seeing a baby-faced Michael Imperioli get abused as “Spider” and also (how the hell did I miss?!?) Samuel L. Jackson as “Stacks”. Naughty Bear enjoyed seeing many actors that he’s seen in other movies in this one, and he was blown away by the acting and the story.
The body count on this film is tremendous, and it is definitely not a film for the faint hearted. While I realize they are all bad guys, there is definitely a point at which the movie tells us to feel sympathy for Henry. We are shown that he is not as heartless as the others, and we are able to feel sympathy for him and become invested in his character and survival. Beyond him being the narrator and focus of the film, I mean.
The first blatant occurrence is when Tommy (Joe Pesce) killed Batts. You saw it even more so when he shot Spider, both times. He was so clearly shaken and seemed to be at a loss. It was evident that Henry was in love with the lifestyle that was afforded by crime, and while he had no problem stealing, hustling and light brutality he definitely did not like when he witnessed extreme violence from others. We see him several times trying to smooth over ruffled feathers and splitting people apart when he saw danger coming, but when lives were at stake he was seemed to be completely caught off guard as if he were still in some sort of denial about what everything was really about.
It made it somewhat easy to make the leap with Henry from wiseguy to stool pigeon, as his friends and associates turned away from him with mounting paranoia. The fact that he was taking his wife with him on an illegal gun sale makes it clear that he had already lost a level of trust with them.
I keep coming back to baby-faced Samuel L. Jackson. I’m going to have to start a “How many movies on the AFI list have Samuel L. Jackson in them?” list. At number 92 he has been in three: Do The Right Thing, Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas. I don’t really expect to see him in any more, as I know that earlier decades are more predominant than recent movies. Still, not a bad showing and clearly representative that he has great acting chops.
By the way, it seems that Naughty Bear’s favorite scene in the movie was when Henry, returning home in the wee hours of the morning to his in-laws’ house where he and his wife are living, is greeted at the door by his wife and mother-in-law. After about five seconds of nagging, Henry turns on his heel and silently leaves with Tommy, who just dropped him off. The refusal to be nagged by the women really cracked Naughty Bear up, and he’s mentioned the scene twice now since we watched.
Movie number 91 has already arrived, and having already seen Sophie’s Choice only once many years ago I’m looking forward to watching it again. I will keep my tissues handy, of course.
Now, please pardon me while I scamper off to hear Christiana and Mike discuss Goodfellas.